Thomas Ernst Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Modern & Classical Language
Thomas Ernst Ph.D.
About Thomas Ernst Ph.D.
In 1993, Thomas Ernst was the first to successfully decipher the Third Book of Johannes Trtithemius' "Steganographia" (1500), which had remained a much discussed riddle for almost half a millennium. Ernst also cracked Wolfgang Ernst Heidel's enciphered comment on Trithemius (1676). Ernst's finding were published in the Dutch journal "Daphnis" in 1996. A brief English version appeared in 1998 in the Journal "Cryptologia". In 2001, Ernst debunked a forged manuscript of the "Steganographia" in his article "Anatomie einer Fälschung" ("Anatomy of a Forgery). Ernst has been interviewed numerous times about his cryptological activities, from the "New York Times" (1996) to the "Pittsburgh Tribune" (2015); he is quoted in dozens of books on cryptology. The German cryptologer Klaus Schmeh dedicated a whole chapter of the second edition of his "Versteckte Botschaften" ("Hidden Messages", August 2017) to Ernst's deciphering of Trithemius and Heidel. In September 2017, Ernst was able to successfully crack the "Zifra Picolominea" (1640), after a goup of information scientists had failed to do so in 1999. This cipher was employed during the Thirty Years' War between the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand III, his brother Duke Leopold, and the leading general of the Habsburg forces, Ottavio Piccolomini. The solution of this cipher will allow an understanding of numerous letters exchanged between three main players during the Thirty Years' War.
Phone 724-805-2876
Office Location
Alfred Hall, 4th Floor
Courses Taught
  • Advanced German Composition
  • Conversational German
  • Early 20th Century Literature
  • Elementary German I, II
  • German Baroque Literature and Civilization
  • German Culture and Civilization of the 18th Century
  • German Literature of the Middle Ages
  • German Phonetics
  • German Romanticism
  • History of the German Language
  • Intermediate German I, II